Resort Says Telemarketers Play a Dirty Game

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – Indicted telemarketers are bilking timeshare owners with “harassing phone calls” telling them to send their payments to the scammers, the (Lawrence) Welk Resort claims in court.
     The Welk Resort Group sued VO Financial, its CEO Adam Lacerda, and co-founder Ashley Lacerda in Federal Court.
     The Welk Resort lies at the foot of and on the slopes of picturesque mountains in San Diego County. It claims VO Financial made “repeated and harassing phone calls” to Welk’s timeshare owners to “fleece” them and the resort.
     The complaint states: “VO Financial purports to be a ‘timeshare research and resolution firm’ that supposedly offers a mortgage reduction program and timeshare rental services. In reality, VO Financial uses a variety of false pretenses to convince timeshare owners into believing that if they pay money to VO Financial, they no longer need to make their loan or maintenance fee payments to Welk. In fact, VO Financial pockets the money they fleece from timeshare owners and then allows the timeshare owners to default on their contractual obligations to Welk.”
     It’s not the first time around for VO and Lacerda, Welk says in its complaint: “This is the same type of scam that VO Financial’s predecessor, VO Group LLC, used against other timeshare owners. In fact, on May 3, 2012, the United States of America unsealed an indictment against VO Group LLC co-owner Adam Lacerda (now president of VO Financial) for falsely telling timeshare owners that paying VO Group LLC would relieve these owners of their obligations. In reality, it appears that VO Group LLC merely pocketed more than $2.6 million and left the customers with their debts.
     “VO Group LLC is now VO Financial. Notwithstanding the indictment, VO Financial has continued to carry on VO Group LLC’s unlawful business practices in the hopes that it can continue to defraud timeshare owners,” the complaint states.
     VO Financial describes itself on its website, checked this morning, as the “largest timeshare research and resolution firm in the world, specializing in helping victims of timeshare fraud, misrepresentation, and predatory lending practices.”
     It claims its mission is “to educate and empower today’s timeshare owners by delivering quality, trustworthy customer care and service, before, during, and after the timeshare transaction process.”
     Welk claims the defendants are intentionally interfering with its customer relationships through its “misleading and unsolicited phone calls.”
     “VO Financial’s representatives use a variety of approaches in their telemarketing calls,” the complaint states. “In some calls, VO Financial tries to build upon the goodwill that Welk has spent years developing with its owners by either directly or indirectly suggesting that VO Financial is associated with Welk. And if a Welk owner is deceived into believing that VO Financial is somehow affiliated with Welk, VO Financial does not correct the mistaken association.
     “In other calls, the VO Financial representative tells Welk owners that he or she is an ‘investigator’ looking into complaints about Welk, creating the false impression that the ‘investigator’ is associated with either Welk or some regulatory body.
     “VO Financial also spins a variety of false tales in an effort to obtain money from Welk owners and disrupt Welk’s relationship with its owners. For example, VO Financial has misled Welk owners into believing that it was performing a customer service satisfaction survey (so that it could acquire confidential information about Welk owners’ accounts), has falsely claimed to be Welk’s collection agency, has falsely accused Welk of selling its customer information to VO Financial, has falsely accused Welk of illegal lending practices, and has led Welk owners to believe that paying money to VO Financial would eliminate the need for them to pay Welk. All of these ruses share a common goal: to either scare or persuade Welk owners into paying money to VO Financial.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Welk claims that VO Financial “uses these false, deceptive and illegal practices to induce Welk owners to pay VO Financial money for an alleged debt reduction scheme. But in reality, this debt reduction scheme does nothing more than put money in the pockets of VO Financial, while causing Welk owners to default on their contractual obligations to Welk. Welk does not receive any of the money that is provided to VO Financial to supposedly reduce the owner’s debt to Welk. In short, this scam fleeces Welk owners out of thousands of dollars, induces broken contracts, and sours relationships between Welk and its owners.”
     Welk seeks damages, treble damages and punitive damages for intentional interference with contract, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, unfair competition and trademark violations.
     It also wants the defendants enjoined from contacting its customers, claiming to be associated with Welk, and “claiming to offer services that will eliminate Welk owners’ contracts with Welk.”
     It is represented by Aaron T. Winn with McKenna, Long & Aldridge.

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